Monday, September 08, 2008

Mental Health Arts - Sustaining A User Led Arts Group In The NHS Environment ?

By Silvis Rivers

Sustaining a Mental Health User Led arts group is not easy - especially when it's actually independent of the stautory services.

At North Birmingham Community Arts UK we have cards made of images that will create a sales base. We get donations too . The trick is to get some of that equation right and brother we are not telling the services how either because they are too busy supporting performance reviewed in-house paid User-rivals .. Sounds crazy doesn't it - that the system operates against individual growth and truer individuation unless people work for that system ? ..

Welcome to State-land and the mental health colonies .

And the trouble is, authentic arts are not easy to produce if the context is over-compromising and is itself inauthentic . To be sure NBCA have spoken back to the services locally who have centralised a subsidised MH arts practice and created a kind of system backed "User-economy" .

This is what the local Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust advertises as its form of "social inclusion" brand .. In truth it encourages a form of co-dependency and little real growth... It also encourges hostility and divisiveness because the Trust favours little User-governorships here and there in these centralising groups it fosters to watch its back for it ..

NBCA have argued for a locality grants based model for Users whereby local services support Users in their own very local communities . £6000 a year is spent at one location by the local Trust in the centre of the city . That does have some strategic merit but the truth is a city like Birmingham poses many problems of travel for Users who could do better by locality development where they live. Currently NBCA argue this is being undernourished for a centralised model which suits the Trust's "business case" ......

What evolves in the Trust environment is a shaping of some Users to work for it while those Users blind their own eyes to its centralising selective inclusion approach. Its bureau-land and bureau-planned....More and more betrayal is part of the normal experience of Users

What is also evolving is the idea of some staff morphing themselves together with the bottom rung areas of economic opportunity into grant hungry groups staffed by them where performances are played out and Users remain with lives that are corralled . We know long term Users cannot fit into life easily but Day Centre dependency is turning into system encouraged resourceless dependency on more things Users have no control over ..

Users NBCA knows did put forward other models of growth but it depended on them being in charge far more and that was resisted by the Trust itself unless it could have control over them.

Art in truth is affected by experiences and if it is honest it will try to reflect a felt social truth or truths .

When it starts really showing up the secondary and tertiary organised abuses of the NHS system on Users - its no longer seen as "good" - but even as part of the User's problem - Bland stuff though, is fine - or if its got the "ahh they are unwell factor".....or if its the usual pathos of internal mess and poor self knowledge with a few lines of crayon and a non sided boat in a sealess sea

I recall showing off the picture at a Trust event in 2003 of the fire figure of hell - the holocaust walker - and a community nurse with a controlling way that came over like a walking quieted blue black anus said to me :

"Its not the kind of stuff I would hang up - its not calming .. "

I responded : " Its not calming because its the Self burning up in the slow holocaustic context of Life and even the mental health services which slowly furnace some peoples souls .. (now Ckuf off ) "

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